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New report by Global Witness finds business behind many of the 227 recorded killings of human rights defenders

Mateus Bonomi/AGIF (via AP)

'Last line of defence', 13 September 2021

Global Witness recorded 227 land and environmental defenders killed in 2020 – an average of more than four people a week. As ever, these lethal attacks are taking place in the context of a wider range of threats against defenders – including arrests, smear campaigns and nonlethal attacks. Colombia was once again the country with the highest recorded attacks...

Over a third of the attacks were reportedly linked to resource exploitation – logging, mining, and largescale agribusiness – and hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure. However, this figure is likely to be higher... Logging was the sector linked to the most murders with 23 cases... In 2020 the disproportionate number of attacks against indigenous peoples continued once again – with over a third of all fatal attacks targeting indigenous people despite only making up 5% of the world’s population... Indigenous peoples were the target of 5 of the 7 mass killings recorded in 2020... Over 1 in 10 of the defenders killed in 2020 were women... those who act and speak out may also face gender-specific threats, including sexual violence...

The core truths about violence against land and environmental defenders mirror what we know about the climate crisis itself:

  1. Its impacts are unequal
  2. Business is responsible
  3. Governments are both causing and failing to prevent it

... When looking at the dataset on attacks in totality, it’s clear that many companies engage in an extractive economic model that overwhelmingly prioritises profit over human and environmental harm. This unaccountable corporate power is the underlying force that has not only driven the climate crisis to the brink, but which has continued to perpetuate the killing of defenders...

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